Speaking Out #155
August 27, 2012
Significance of Armitage Report and Two Relevant Questions
The Armitage-Nye report, which was made by the bipartisan U.S. experts on Japan and released on August 15, concludes that unless Japan and the United States remain strong economically and militarily, an international order based on such values as freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights cannot be secured. I would like to appreciate this report as an excellent collection of proposals. It is right for the report to point out that disputes between Japan and South Korea over comfort women and other problems can only benefit their enemies. In addition, however, I would like to make frank comments on two points to energize discussions.
Misunderstanding over comfort women
The Armitage-Nye report points out that “it is essential for Japan to confront the historical issues” and criticizes such Japanese actions as “efforts by the government of Japan to lobby local U.S. officials not to erect comfort women monuments.” In this respect, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in an interview carried by the Nikkei Shimbun on August 25 said the fact was that some Japanese were responsible for the comfort women problem that was bad and occurred actually. He then noted Japan should resolve the problem by admitting the fact and begin with teaching children history coolly.
Armitage might have apparently accepted a claim on a comfort women monument that Japan’s armed forces coerced 200,000 Korean women into sex slavery. The claim represents a misunderstanding. But the Japanese government has been largely responsible for the prevalent misunderstanding.
In the international arena, the government has evasively explained that the number of 200,000 represents an exaggeration and that Japan has repeatedly expressed its apology and reflection. Such evasive explanation has naturally led people to suspect that around 100,000 Korean women rather than 200,000 might have been coerced into sex slavery. By utilizing such evasive explanation to lobby the United States to bury a resolution on the comfort women problem in the House of Representatives or comfort women monuments, Japanese diplomats have spread an impression that Japan is feeble.
The fact is that Japanese officers had never taken comfort women by force. There were in fact comfort women for Japanese soldiers as were for soldiers of US occupation forces in Japan in the years following the end of the Second World War. Korean men had not been weak enough to leave their daughters or sisters to be abducted. By emphasizing its position to protect the honor of Japanese and Korean men, the Japanese government must launch campaigns that go beyond its “preemptive surrender.”
What is N. Korea’s human rights problem?
The Armitage-Nye report indicates some arrogance by urging only Japan to confront historical issues. There may be historical issues that the United States should confront, including the Yalta Agreement and the unrealistic good-versus-evil view expressed in the Tokyo tribunal of war criminals after the Second World War. The Japanese government, which issued then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama’s statement in 1995 that unilaterally condemned Japan over the war, is also responsible for leading to such one-sided take.
Another point I would like to make is that some ambiguity exists in the report’s proposal for focusing on North Korean human rights abuses “to reshape the strategic environment” amid the deadlock of nuclear talks. The report says “the solution” for the Japan-U.S. alliance, along with South Korea, may lie in expanding the scope of concern, addressing the whole range of humanitarian issues on the Korean peninsula: not only abductions, gulags, and severe restrictions on political and religious freedom, but also “food security, disaster relief, public health, education, and cultural exchange.”
But the solution, if implemented erroneously, could end up as Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy.
Regarding food security, for example, North Korea might have no choice but to voluntarily introduce Deng Xiaoping’s so-called household responsibility system in China that allowed farming households to own agricultural output left after meeting a quota. Any external aid may encourage Pyongyang to retain its ancient regime.
Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National
Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.